The Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, has accused former journalist Frank Connolly of travelling to Colombia on a false Irish passport in the company of a known member of the IRA.

In a written reply to a Dáil question, the minister claimed the visit was connected to that of the so-called Colombia Three, and was part of what he called 'a well-organised sinister enterprise'.

Mr Connolly is currently the Executive Director of the Centre for Public Inquiry, a privately funded body which aims to promote integrity, ethics and accountability in public life.

The minister has previously claimed that Mr Connolly had questions to answer about a trip to Colombia using a false passport - allegations which Mr Connolly has denied.

Now, in a written answer to a Parliamentary Question, Minister McDowell has gone further, claiming that Mr Connolly travelled to a region of Colombia controlled by FARC guerrillas in April 2001.

He claimed Mr Connolly was in the company of his brother Niall, later one of the so-called Colombia Three, and Padraig Wilson, a known member of the IRA.

The minister claimed the visit was connected with that of the Colombia Three, that both groups had access to false passports obtained as part of a well-organised sinister enterprise, and that the visits were connected with the IRA providing training in the use of explosives in return for large amounts of money from FARC.

It is understood Mr Connolly may issue a statement, which is expected to reject the minister's accusations, and to suggest they are aimed at undermining the work of the Centre for Public Inquiry.